Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.89
Liaison Julie Newman
Submission Date Oct. 23, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
OP-19: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.55 / 8.00 MIT Office of Sustainability
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures needed to determine total waste generated (and diverted):
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 1,482 Tons 1,414 Tons
Materials composted 747 Tons 819 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 24.50 Tons 35.30 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 2,813 Tons 3,034 Tons
Total waste generated 5,066.50 Tons 5,302.30 Tons

A brief description of the residual conversion facility, including affirmation that materials are sorted prior to conversion to recover recyclables and compostable materials:

Trash, single stream recycling, and food compost are source segregated on campus, and each stream is kept separate by the hauling trucks. MIT collects single stream recycling and transports these materials to a "Zero Sort" facility, where material is sorted through a combination of automated machinery and labor. This materials recovery facility bales the sorted material and sells it to mills to be transformed into new products. MIT's food waste is transported from campus to several facilities, where it is processed, often pulped, and then composted by farmers.

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Year July 1, 2016 June 30, 2017
Baseline Year July 1, 2013 June 30, 2014

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted (e.g. in sustainability plans and policies or in the context of other reporting obligations):

We adopted FY14 as the baseline for consistency across credits and to align with MIT's greenhouse gas commitment.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 5,873 6,007
Number of employees resident on-site 45 39
Number of other individuals resident on-site and/or staffed hospital beds 411 411
Total full-time equivalent student enrollment 11,053 11,301
Full-time equivalent of employees (staff + faculty) 10,430 11,380
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 0 0
Weighted campus users 18,002.75 18,933.25

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.28 Tons 0.28 Tons

Percentage reduction in total waste generated per weighted campus user from baseline:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator by recycling, composting, donating or re-selling, performance year:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator (including up to 10 percent attributable to post-recycling residual conversion):

In the waste figures reported above, has the institution recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold the following materials?:
Yes or No
Paper, plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclable containers Yes
Food Yes
Cooking oil Yes
Plant materials Yes
Animal bedding No
White goods (i.e. appliances) Yes
Laboratory equipment Yes
Furniture Yes
Residence hall move-in/move-out waste No
Scrap metal Yes
Pallets Yes
Tires Yes
Other (please specify below) Yes

A brief description of other materials the institution has recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold:

Film plastic, such as plastic bags, are collected around campus and bailed on campus and hauled for recycling. We recycle styrofoam with a vendor that densifies the styrofoam to be used in other products. MIT also has a pilot program to recycle laboratory gloves. The small number of mattresses that are handled by MIT directly (as opposed to a construction contractor) are sent to construction and demolition waste for recycling. In addition, MIT collects clothing for reuse via Planet Aid and collects used books through the "Got Books?" program, which are sold to raise money for local causes.

Notes about the streams above:

White Goods - MIT does recycle/reuse/donate white goods, but only a portion of what is salvaged is tracked. For example, some lab equipment is not tracked through the same mechanism as office appliances. There is an opportunity to improve the data collection for white goods moving forward.

Furniture - MIT does recycle/reuse/donate furniture, but only a portion of what is salvaged is measured. MIT handles unwanted furniture through a combination of the Property Office/surplus furniture warehouse, the MIT Furniture Exchange, and the Reuse email list. Furniture that is unusable is recycled either as metal recycling or C&D recycling. There is an opportunity to improve the data collection for furniture moving forward.

Pallets - MIT does recycle/reuse/donate pellets, but only a portion of salvaged pallets are tracked. The tracked pallets go through wood recycling processes and are counted in the recycling figures. However, some pallets are reused and donated to student groups or staff for projects, which is not captured in the recycling figure. There is an opportunity to improve the data collection for pallets moving forward. MIT recently started an arrangement where Staples takes back some of the pallets initially delivered by the company for reuse.

Materials intended for disposal but subsequently recovered and reused on campus, performance year (e.g. materials that are actively diverted from the landfill or incinerator and refurbished/repurposed) :
8.20 Tons

Does the institution use single stream recycling (a single container for commingled recyclables) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use dual stream (two separate containers for recyclables, e.g. one for paper and another for plastic, glass, and metals) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use multi-stream recycling (multiple containers that further separate different types of materials) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Average contamination rate for the institution’s recycling program (percentage, 0-100):

A brief description of any recycling quality control mechanisms employed, e.g. efforts to minimize contamination and/or monitor the discard rates of the materials recovery facilities and mills to which materials are diverted:

MIT periodically conducts waste audits, which help indicate the level of contamination at different bin locations. The Office of Recycling and Materials Management trains new custodians on the material sorting rules and the use of consistently colored bins and bags. MIT also provides education and signage to increase proper sorting. Facilities staff frequently monitor bins and discuss best practices with building staff. Facilities staff also have a close relationship with vendors to stay informed about industry standards and innovations.

A brief description of the institution's waste-related behavior change initiatives, e.g. initiatives to shift individual attitudes and practices such as signage and competitions:

MIT installed new waste containers with updated signage and consistent colors (green = food waste, blue = recycling, black = trash). Students with a personal or academic interest in waste formed a group called the MIT Waste Alliance. The MIT Waste Alliance creates a forum where students, researchers, entrepreneurs, industrial practitioners, and policy makers convene to discuss waste-sector issues and innovations. The Recycling and Materials Management Office presents to students at orientation and encourages waste reduction and recycling.

MIT also offers an online recycling course, which is promoted at orientation and available to everyone. The course provides general information about sorting, but also discusses specific items that are often improperly sorted on campus, such as pizza boxes. In addition, the course educates students about the availability of specialty recycling services.

The Working Green Committee also acts to promote a culture of waste reduction on campus. The mission of the Working Green Committee is to develop and deliver programs that educate administrative and support staff at MIT about recycling, reducing, and reusing goods. Efforts include identifying gaps in staff understanding about recycling and the services available.

The Undergraduate Association Sustain Committee on Sustainability also promotes waste reduction and recycling education. For example, the group manages an email list, is-this-recyclable@mit.edu, to service general waste sorting questions. The culture of reuse is also encouraged at on-campus cafes, which offer a discount on drinks for individuals that bring their own mug or thermos.

A brief description of the institution's waste audits and other initiatives to assess its materials management efforts and identify areas for improvement:

MIT has conducted waste audits for several years. The most recent audits were conducted through a partnership between academic researchers and operations. Over the course of 2016 and 2017, 5 waste audits were conducted. Volunteer students and staff members sorted the waste streams into 21 detailed categories. In addition to providing information about the material composition of waste streams, these audits identified common sorting mistakes. The recent audits are a component of a larger Material Flow Analysis led by the Office of Sustainability and the Environmental Solutions Initiative. Findings from MIT's Material Flow Analysis will inform policies and practices for procurement and waste management.

A brief description of the institution's procurement policies designed to prevent waste (e.g. by minimizing packaging and purchasing in bulk):

No formal MIT policies are currently in place to prevent waste from packaging or procurement. However, some of MIT's highly used vendors offer programs to reduce packaging via bulk ordering and consolidated orders.

A brief description of the institution's surplus department or formal office supplies exchange program that facilitates reuse of materials:

The institution's surplus is handled by the Property Office, which is MIT’s master inventory department. The Property Office has an Equipment Exchange program that holds surplus lab, computer, and office furniture for reuse within the Institute. Departments can utilize the warehouse to acquire surplus items. Items not claimed on campus are sold to the general public at affordable prices. There are informal office supply exchanges held throughout the year, organized at the building level.

A brief description of the institution's platforms to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and reuse (e.g. of electronics, furnishings, books and other goods):

Reuse is an important keystone in MIT’s waste reduction efforts. The Institute has a number of programs in place to help the community find a second home for unneeded or unwanted items. Programs designed for peer-to-peer exchange and reuse of goods include: Choose to Reuse, Trash2Treasure, the ReUse email list, and an annual book donation drive.

Choose to Reuse is an initiative sponsored by the Working Green Committee and the MIT Recycling Program. Every month community members can drop off goods for swapping. Attendees can browse and take up to five items free of charge, and all unclaimed items are either recycled or donated to charity.

Trash2Treasure is an annual program that collects room accessories, clothes, and shoes that are no longer needed at the end of the spring semester. The program stores the usable items and sells them at the beginning of the next school year.

MIT ReUse is a service that allows MIT students, staff, faculty, and alumni to sell or exchange items. Anyone in this community can post items to the ReUse email list. Interested parties can respond to claim posted items (similar to Craigslist).

Finally, the Office of Community Services holds a yearly book and clothing drive. The proceeds go to local community centers.

A brief description of the institution's limits on paper and ink consumption (e.g. restricting free printing and/or mandating doubled-sided printing in libraries and computer labs):

Students have a print quota of 3000 pages per year through the MIT printers in libraries and computer clusters. There is no policy mandating double-sided printing. However, double-sided printing is generally encouraged and many computers across campus default to this setting.

A brief description of the institution's initiatives to make materials (e.g. course catalogs, course schedules, and directories) available online by default rather than printing them:

Most institutional materials (e.g. course catalogs, course schedules, registration, directories) are available in digital form, with only occasional materials being physically printed. Many course readings are also provided digitally, with students given the option to print them on their own.

A brief description of the institution's program to reduce residence hall move-in/move-out waste:

Boxes are placed in dorms for students to drop off unwanted materials that will then go to the Trash2Treasure program for redistribution or a discount sale. Clothes are donated while hard goods are sold at a campus fair. The Undergraduate Association Sustainability Committee administers this program.

A brief description of the institution's programs or initiatives to recover and reuse other materials intended for disposal:

See description of the programs described previously in this section.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The majority of the data are sourced from MIT's Office of Recycling and Materials Management in the Department of Facilities. The data are also displayed on the Office of Sustainability's DataPool website, which will be launched early FY18.


Some data, including materials donated or re-sold, are sourced from the Property Office within the Office of the Vice President for Finance.


Other sources:
Working Green Committee: http://web.mit.edu/workinggreen/reuse/reuse.html
Furniture Exchange: http://web.mit.edu/womensleague/fx/
Printing quota: http://kb.mit.edu/confluence/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=3907351
Lab glove recycling: https://greenlab.mit.edu/glove-recycling-resources
UA Committee on Sustainability: http://sustain.scripts.mit.edu/

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.